Community vs. Marketing

This is Part Three in a Four-Part Series on Observations on Community Building

What’s the difference between community and marketing? Moving from the all-encompassing view I took in my last post, and back to the more specific realm of web companies, this is a question that me and my peers are asking often as we figure out our teams and our strategies.

This would be my take on it: metaphorically, marketing gets people off the street and in the door, and community makes sure they want to stay once they’re there. They’re situated at different parts of the “funnel”.

I tend to find that doing marketing work vs. community work really do involve different types of thinking. In the marketing mindset, you’re thinking in terms of what’s going to catch people’s eye, and how to maximize appeal. When you’re in the community mindset, I find you do more thinking about the emotions and the behaviors of large groups of people, and trying to tweak a network to maximize harmony. They both still have a lot to do with company values and identities, which is why people in both roles need to see eye to eye.

Especially in really early stage companies, one person often fulfills both needs. In the context of the startup where everyone wears 5 hats, this makes sense. However, what’s best from a community perspective isn’t always best from a marketing perspective. That’s why when your company gets to the point where it makes sense to have one person handling marketing and another heading up community it can be a beautiful thing, so long as they’re upholding the same values.